Dayana Hansley ’18 had an eventful freshman year. She struggled in her engineering classes during the first semester. At the same time, the Abilene native and her team took first place in the 2014 Aggies Invent competition, a 48-hour engineering innovation competition.
The combination of these two occurrences altered Hansley’s trajectory in both college and in life. She changed her major in order to earn a university studies business degree with minors in leadership studies and communications. The winner of Aggies Invent also transferred to Mays Business School’s Startup Aggieland, where she gained guidance in entrepreneurism and the resources to figure out how to bring her team’s invention, the Motley Tool, to the marketplace.
Coming back to a childhood dream
Hansley’s interest in entrepreneurship started at an early age. “I’ve always dreamed of owning my own company,” she said. “Even as a child, I would make handmade cards to give to my parents and family members for holidays. I would always write ‘Dayana Inc.’ on the back, hoping that one day I would have my own company.”
That dream eventually faded away. “As I grew up, I didn’t think it was realistic and I put the idea of entrepreneurship to the side,” she said.
However, winning Aggies Invent put her back on the path that she dreamed about in her youth. “Startup Aggieland opened my eyes to entrepreneurism,” she said. “I learned that owning my own business is possible and it is not as crazy as people make it seem.”
Hansley quickly tapped into the business incubator’s mentoring and resources, including free legal assistance. In addition, she worked with Startup Aggieland’s staff to patent the Motley Tool.
She also found that Startup Aggieland offered a nurturing environment that helped her juggle the opportunities she was being offered while remaining focused on her classes and own self-care. “When they pull you in, they make sure you are taken care of,” said Hansley, who is president of Texas A&M’s Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization. “They also make sure you are doing well in school because Startup Aggieland does realize that you’re here for school.”
Providing a lifeline to first responders
The Motley Tool, which incorporates the 10 most used tools by firefighters and HazMat technicians, is quickly gaining traction across the nation. Hansley and her business partner, McCalley Cunningham ’18, started receiving positive feedback on the tool after attending trade shows across the nation. In addition, the invention placed second in Mays’ Raymond Ideas Challenge and the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization National Elevator Pitch Competition, and came in third in the U-Ignite Competition. Hansley also has been approached to submit an application for the prestigious Lemelson MIT Student Prize Award.
The pair is starting the roll-out process to bring the Motley Tool to market. They will receive the first metal prototype by the start of the school year and plan to send 50 prototypes to fire departments across the nation for a two-month trial during the fall semester. After incorporating the first responders’ feedback, the partners plan to start mass production in early 2018. In addition, The Texas A&M University System’s Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) also may incorporate this tool into their first responders’ training program.
After they graduate, Hansley and Cunningham plan to focus on extending the Motley Tool line. “We’d like to make a company that is designing and even manufacturing multi-purpose tools for different industries,” Hansley said. “We know for sure that the Motley Tool can be used in the first response industry, the military, the airline industry and maybe even the oil and gas industry. We also may add different tools to the Motley Tool to make it applicable in other industries.”